Is Rape the Worst Thing That Can Happen to a Woman?

Is Rape the Worst Thing That Can Happen to a Woman?

I’m going to tread lightly on today’s post. Rape is a very personal, very sensitive, very political issue, and emotions tend to run high around it.

But recently, I read a thoughtful, well-written piece by a UK escort named Charlotte Shane. In it, she asserts, from personal experience, that rape does not have to be the worst thing that could happen to a woman. For the author, it’s not even in the Top 5.

“Though some feminists regard ‘rape equals devastation’ as sacred fact, the notion that a man can ruin me with his penis strikes me as the most complete expression of vintage misogyny available. Common sense instructs us that it is far more ‘dangerous’ to insist to young women that they will be broken by an unwanted sex act than it is to propose they might have a happy, healthy, and sexually pleasant future ahead of them in spite of a sexual assault…

The truth is that it does not suit our social narrative to recognize that a woman can be raped and get on with her life, can maintain sexual and romantic relationships without counseling, won’t think of her rape every day, and won’t see herself as a ‘survivor’ or different in any material way. According to the cultural script, women are simply not strong enough to bear such an experience easily.”

I thought that this was a profound, thought-provoking take on things; one that I’d never seen expressed so eloquently before. I’ve had close friends who were raped before. I’ve even taken care of one in the immediate aftermath. But since I’ve never experienced it, it’s not my place to say what the appropriate response to an unwanted sexual assault is.

I will say, however, that I hope Ms. Shane is speaking for more women than just herself. No one is saying that you’re “wrong” if you let your rape define you, but then, it shouldn’t be wrong if you refuse to let your rape define you either.

Read the full article here and share your thoughts below.

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Comments:

  1. 91
    Sara

    The one thing that I want to comment on here is this: Evan has said “Rape is down by 70%.” I don’t believe it. I work at a courthouse. I see rape victims DAILY. Yes, Daily. I work with juveniles and neglect/abuse cases. Nearly all of these involved sexual abuse/assault of some kind. I have spoken (in the past) with our county sheriff, and various attorneys, as well as the judge. What I’ve learned is this: 1. CSC offenses are typically pled down, to avoid the costs of a trial and having the victim testify. (In fact, one rather sick joke that we have here at work is “so, what did he get, ‘disorderly person?’” Because we’ve seen it happen.) 2. Because they are pled down, they get a lighter sentence, which means jail time, rather than prison time. Prisons won’t accept people with lighter sentences because they are so crowded. 3. Jails are also crowded, so people get out faster. 
    I personally know of a case where a pediatrician was molesting a young girl, repeatedly. He admitted it, there was evidence, but he pled to attempted. He got 1 year, with 3 years probation, and of course, lifetime registration. He got out of jail in 6 months. Rape just isn’t considered a serious offense. There are places where rape kits are backed up by years. So, no, Rape itself is not down by 70%. But I can completely believe that Rape convictions are.

  2. 92
    Zann

    Rape is an act of violence, and all forms of violence are damaging and all victim’s react, process, heal, or remain traumatized based on too many different factors to begin to name here. I read Charlotte’s article as one woman’s perspective on dealing with being a victim of rape. I found the article interesting and didn’t get the sense that she expected anyone else to follow her path. Is she in denial? Who knows, and what difference does it make? Maybe it was healing for her to write the article, and if it’s helpful to even one reader struggling with this issue, where’s the harm? What I do think is harmful, though, is what seems like one-up-manship in some of the responses, as if there’s a need to establish whose wound is the worst. Where does that get anybody?

    I think the topic of rape is highly relevant to dating because of the alarming statistics regarding date rape and because on-line dating usually involves establishing an online dialogue with a total stranger, who is asking you to take them at their word, with the potential of an in-person meeting.

    As for feminism, there is no one voice for feminism, no one way feminists act. There are feminists in the sex industry and there are feminists who believe the sex industry keeps all women back. It seems hypocritical to me, though, for some responders here to imply that a non-rape victim can’t really speak to the issue of rape (because she/he hasn’t walked in your shoes), but at the same time feel free, as a non-sex worker, to assess a sex worker’s experience and reaction to rape as not valid. Or to peg her as being in obvious denial because her reaction doesn’t match yours. That, in my opinion, is not a feminist response to a woman’s experience. 

  3. 93
    anonymouse

    Um, I recommend reading David Shade’s work, “Select Men Wisely” and “Select Women Wisely.” I would take anything told to me by an “escort” with a grain of sale. Women with high self-esteem do not become escorts. Sorry, but that’s just reality. I believe Mr. Shade held a workshop in Las Vegas or somewhere and as homework assigned the men in the workshop to go to a strip club and ask the ladies who worked there about their relationships with their fathers. The women who waited tables (with clothes on) had healthy relationships with their dads. The strippers did not. Women who have healthy relationships with their fathers have high self-esteem, and they will never take their clothes off for money. Show me a woman who works as a stripper/escort/prostitute and I will show you a woman with daddy issues.

  4. 94
    Lia

    Damn Evan that was seriously gutsy of you to do this post!!!!!!  You didn’t even ask for a blindfold before you let the comments begin.  FIRE!!!! 
     
    I remember watching a show on rape years ago and one of the women interviewed had been raped as a teenager when she was coming home from work one night.  She didn’t seem to have any upset about this incident and when the interviewer asked about this she said that the man had terrorized her one night years ago and she had decided then that that was all he would get, that he wasn’t going to have any more of her life than that one night. 
     
    And that’s all I am going to write because I am now going to duck and cover….

  5. 95
    Milkshake

    To be honest , i think rapist are not the worse people. rape is too overated. 
    there are much things worse off than rape like:
     
    1) facial disfigurement
    2) Losing one’s hair especially for a woman
    #) Loss of financial aid
    4) getting beaten up 
     
    etc. rape is bad but there are worst. i am a woman who has been through  2 rapes and 7 molestation as a teen girl.

  6. 96
    Sparkling Emerald

    Haven’t read all of the comments, but I don’t think anyone can make sweeping generalizations of how a woman  is supposed to react to being raped.  There are way to many variables.  Just like being the victim of theft could mean anything from having someone steal your wallet when you weren’t looking, or being robbed at gunpoint, yes, there are degrees of rape.  How old was the woman when it happened ?  Was she a virgin at the time ?  Date rape or stranger ? Was there a weapon involved ?  Was it a quick single act of rape, or was she kidnapped, taken to a remote location and raped repeatedly over time ?  One rapist, or was it a gang rape ?  Not only are there different degrees of rape, but women have different temperaments, and different tolerances to life events, and their ability to handle stressful events can change over the course of their life, due to what else is going on.  I think obviously a sex worker is going to have a different reaction than say a 12 year old virgin who is raped all afternoon by a trusted relative, then told to never tell anyone, or great harm will come to her or a sibling.  (not passing judgement on her for being a sex worker, just saying that her experience will be different than that of a 12 year old virgin)
    I also think there is a continuum of how people respond to ALL sorts of distressing life events.  Some people get over things faster than others.  Some might have a short but VERY INTENSE grieving period, other people might try to stuff in their feelings, and then have this long, slow, drawn out recovery period.
    I too, don’t buy into the false dichotomy of women either take a victim mentality for life, or they just snap their fingers and get over it. 
     
    I had a very good friend who was raped, she was 17.  She actually was very strong, and seemed to recover very well, with occasioanal bouts of fear.  (the rapists was identified as being someone who lived nearby, but he was never found, and she feared he might come back after her, as she was raped on the grounds of our apt complex, so he had an idea of where she lived) I think one of the main components to how well she seemed to handle it, was that she had a strong support system of family & friends.  And the police officers who handled her case were very kind and compassionate (not the stereotype of the officers making the vicitm feel victimized all over again)
    I don’t think femnists defining nearly every act of sex as rape helps, I don’t think politicians blowing off rape helps, and I don’t think this article telling women that there’s a one size fits all way to react to a rape (especially since there is such a wide variety of rape scenarios) helps either.
    Thankfully, this has never happened to me, so weather or not I would react in the proper way that the author seems to think I should is a moot point.

  7. 97
    Karl R

    Sparkling Emerald said: (#101)
    “I don’t think this article telling women that there’s a one size fits all way to react to a rape (especially since there is such a wide variety of rape scenarios) helps either.”
     
    I believe the article was telling women the exact opposite.
     
    Charlotte Shane said: (article)
    “It is only one of many possible responses, all of which are equally valid because rape is an individual’s experience, not a collective one, in spite of what current ‘rape culture’ rhetoric often assumes.”
     
    It sounds to me like she’s making the exact same point that you are.
     
    Based on my own conversations with victims of rape, plus my own experiences with non-sexual violence, I agree with both of you on this point.

  8. 98
    Sparkling Emerald

    Karl R
    OK, so I read the whole article now, and she seems to be all over the page.  I agree that depending on the rape and the woman’s ability to tolerate stressful events in her life at the time of the rape be part and parcel of how she recovers.  And that there is a continuum to how a woman will handle it.  There will be a very slim minority who can blow off an anal rape that leaves her injured to the point of needing surgery, but i would say that the vast majority of rape vicitms are well above the devil may care attitude.  Maybe not at the very top of the continuum (something that leaves them scarred for life) but somewhere in the very traumatized category, that leaves them in a state of anger, grief and shock for a VERY LONG TIME, until eventually, while never completely getting over the crime, learn to live with the pain and get on with their life.  No one should tell a woman how she “should” feel about it.  Weather it is to say that she should blow it off and get over it, or that she should be paralyzed with grief and fear the rest of her life.  However, I think the author is defining the “media narrative” in it’s entirety as being the small sliver of feminists who consider any sex a woman feels bad about as “rape”.  I don’t agree with that small (but noisy) group of “feminists” nor do I think they represent the entire media narrative (or even the entire collection of womens’ right advocacy groups)  The media and societal narrative about rape is all over the place, from the noisy so called femnists I described, to politicans who say rape victims should carry their babies that may result to term as part of God’s will.  (Real nice, God sends men out to rape women so a new life can begin, because y’know, there’s just a shortage of babies in the world, that women have to be raped into having them) Then there is the so called “progressive” Hollywood types who protect their own by defending a middle age curmundgeon who oral sexes a 14 year old girl, as someone who at least didnt’ “rape rape” her.  What the HELL was she (Whoopie Goldberg) blathering on about ??????? And there are those who blame the woman for being raped, those who say she should just relax and enjoy it, etc.
    I agree with the author that there is a wide continuum of how women response to rape, I disagree with her assessment that the entire culture is steeped in the “rape culture” she speaks of.

  9. 99
    SCM

    I would just like to thank you for posting the link to this article. I know many people would find such an idea controversial, but I am incredibly grateful.
    I have recently experienced sexual assault, but I do not feel broken or distraught over it. In fact, I felt, if anything, confused, and angry with the man, but I did not want any sort of revenge on him, and I am certainly not incapable of loving someone now, nor am I broken. In fact, part of what was confusing me was the fact that everything I’d read to help myself insisted I would be horribly changed or I would feel intense grief or fury, and I should seek out God for answers (I am not religious so this was almost an trivialization to me in the face of everything I was trying to deal with —  that my only hope would be a religion I’ve never been inclined to follow felt like a betrayal of myself, though I know this is what some people choose.).
    In my case, the term  ‘Victim’ is horrible, because this was not a stranger-danger type assault but a situation involving a former friend. He had no right to do what he did, but I do not believe he meant me harm, so ‘Survivor’ doesn’t seem the right word for me either. It was a single event, not a natural disaster or being in a war-zone.
    I am quite an independent sort of person. I like being in control of myself and my life and my options. So the idea that I would break down and lose all control in the face of such a situation is almost insulting. I felt the only way to regain control of my life was to actually be true to my own nature. I have dealt with my personal feelings on the matter, and now I’m going to move on. I have not reported it, and I don’t intend to, because I don’t want retribution, and it is not the worst thing I have experienced (or indeed the worst thing other people in the world have experienced).
    I understand a lot of what I just said will not sit well with many people, but that is the truth of how I feel and how I am viewing my situation. I find the article, therefore very refreshing, and incredibly liberating. So, once again, thank you for posting it, since it has helped at least one person, and it was exactly what I needed when I was starting to lose hope in the face of all the societal conditioning.
    -SCM
     

  10. 100
    Milkshake

    try living in north korea for the rest of your life.. you will know what is the worst.. 

  11. 101
    judy

    I read the article with as much detachment as I could muster.  It makes me very angry on the one hand to read rape almost dismissed, as move on lady, and live your own life, and on the other, if you don’t live your life and move on, the rapist has won (which, in fact, he has!!!! He doesn’t get punished, she gets mutilated, and lives with it forever – in the second scenario).
    Rape is a filthy crime – some of my friends have been raped. 
    I do not accept the argument that women should have to stay indoors after dark so that they don’t get attacked and certainly not that rape is not the worst thing that can happen to a woman. 
    If I did, I would then have to follow it up with, it’s okay to cut off a man’s penis, isn’t it? After all, he can have emotional fulfilment, can’t he? So it’s traumatic for him, but he isn’t dead, is he?
    No Evan – in some countries, women are the victims TWICE when they get raped.
    And it just is not ok at all to say, oh well, she got raped.  So what?
    Personally, I would love to see really harsh punishment on the rapist.  And on the mugger (for any gender, any age group).  It’s sad when in 2013, we have to question the right of anyone to be in the street after dark, to think that rape could be sort of ok really ladies (AND MEN) and I seriously question the sanity of the author of the article.
     
     
     

  12. 102
    Star

    I find this article damaging.
    Rape can happen to anyone, male, female, adult, child and it can seriously harm a persons physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being.
    I don’t think that should ever be underestimated or treated like a light-hearted topic.
    Remember also there are degrees of rape. Is being gang raped repeatedly….just not all that serious?
    If the person who wrote this article was violently raped, I think she’d find herself feeling pretty damn shitty for a very, very long time.
     
     

  13. 103
    Karl R

    Star, (#107)
    I agree that rape can happen to anyone. I agree that some rapes are more severe than others. I agree that rape has a lot of potential to cause emotional harm to the victim.
     
    All those can be true. But that still doesn’t mean rape is always the worst thing that can possibly happen.
     
    I recently saw a documentary about a female journalist who was captured by radical jihadists. After a few weeks of captivity, the leader raped her, and he continued to do so for weeks. They told they were going to execute her. They staged a mock execution where she thought she was going to die. At one point she tried to escape. After they caught her, she was gang-raped for weeks.
     
    However, it wasn’t until the point they suspended her by ropes for four days (it was torture … comparable to the “light” techniques used by the CIA) that she began to despair and contemplate suicide.
     
    I think it’s presumptuous for us to tell other people which of their experiences is worst. What’s wrong with letting the other person decide for themselves what experience is worst?

  14. 104
    Henriette

    I might have chosen to make the title of this thread, “Is rape NECESSARILY the worst thing that can happen to a woman?”  Because, for some women, in some circumstances, i can imagine that it would be.  However, for some others… it might not be. 
     
    An elderly friend of mine confided that being raped as a child by a family friend was terrible but in fact what she considered to be the most traumatic event in her life was discovering her husband’s infidelity when she was in her 40s.  I’m certainly not one to tell her that her feelings about her experiences are wrong.  I think the most salient point of the post above is that we cannot presume to fathom how any man, woman or child might feel about any personal experience.  We do best when we support, listen and care rather than judge.

  15. 105
    milkshake

    I agree with the above. No offence but if any woman who uses rape as the worst thing obviously has not experience worst things in life. Oh please stop using the lame old excuse girls who were raped become strippers. If I became a stripper is because I needed the money or I don’t have attention from. Men

    1. 105.1
      Marie

      Really milkshake, I do use rape as the worst thing that has happen to me in life and you’re someone doesn’t know a thing about rape since you’ve never experienced such trauma. I was raped and I’m still not over it…takes a long time.

  16. 106
    judy

    I think that it’s important to listen to how each woman views it.  And indeed, her husband/boyfriend/family and friends.
    Because they are affected too.
    Somehow, I’m divided on this issue as I mentioned already.
    I) Yes, he’s WON if she can’t move on
    II) But the physical and emotional damage could stop her moving into a new relationship (or not as the case may be).
     
    Also, I find it rather sad when men joke about “rape” as if a woman enjoys it.
    Rape is a serious crime.  I only have to think of one of my girlfriends whose marriage was nearly destroyed by it.  When she reported it to the police, they more or less dismissed it, with a comment as “well, you’re not a virgin any more are you?”
    They totally missed the point.  When I heard that, I mentioned to a police officer – what happens when your wife/girlfriend/sister is raped?
    Is that nothing too?

  17. 107
    judy

    Milkshake 110 – it isn’t an excuse
    “please stop using the lame old excuse girls who were raped become strippers. If I became a stripper is because I needed the money or I don’t have attention from”
    Women who become prostitutes or strippers do this for different reasons:
    I) Because they hate men (usually) – because they’ve been raped
    II) Because they are not trained in another job
    III)Because they need the money
     
    They are not all heartless bitches.  I have spoken with many police officers on this, and yes, divorced and raped women (and those with self-esteem issues) often end up in this kind of activity.
    I, for one, would love to say that I would like to see prostitution legalised, and the women protected.
    If rape can be taken lightly, then prostitution should be legalised (at least, the woman is willing – in a certain sense if she’s a prostitute – and she gets paid – admittedly not much – because the guy who hires her takes a lot of the money -
    but a woman who is raped has far more taken away from her.

  18. 108
    milkshake

    @Judy : 
    If they hated men, why did they choose a job involving men. Anyway it is not a job for long as once you grow old. No men would want you

  19. 109
    judy

    Milkshake 113 – because they hate men, they can provide sex and get the money.  They are certainly not doing this for love.  More for survival.
    In a perverted kind of way, I think that the women are taking a kind of revenge on men by being prostitutes.
    If prostitution was made legal in all countries, maybe there would be more respect for women.
    Hang on – hear me out. If it’s okay to cheat or shag a woman on a first date (or whatever), why is it wrong for women to hire themselves out to do this too?
    One could argue that a prostitute does not respect herself.  I’m not so sure. 
    Sex has always existed.  And some men cannot find the sex they want.  And some women cannot find the job they want.
    If you grow old, no-one would want you? What about older men? Do they not want sex??????
     
     

  20. 110
    sparkling emerald

    While agree there is no one size fits all when it comes to the after math of rape, I think generally speaking, it is a traumatic experience for most women, even if it’s not the WORSE thing that has happened to them.
    I disagree with the notion that we live in a “rape culture” and I also disagree with the authors notion that no one is ever allowed to view rape as anything but the worst case scenario for every woman.
    There is a wide variety of publicly expressed opinions on the topic, and in our free society they are all allowed.  On the one extreme you have politicians proclaiming that rape induced babies should be carried to term as part of God’s will.  There are of course women hating men who say women “ask for it” or that rape never happens and all accusations of rape are false.  On the other extreme, you have the man bashers who think we are just awash in a culture of rape, and consider even a leering look from a man to be a crime.  But I think most people’s views are varied and more moderate.
    And while I agree that women experience rape in different ways, depending on her temperament and the rape itself, I think the authors’ flippant attitude towards her experience is extremely rare.  She treats the experience as if it was nothing more than breaking her nail, or running her panty hose.   I seriously doubt that her  complete flippant indifference to the matter is typical or even common. 

  21. 111
    judy

    Sparkling Emerald 115 – totally agree with you.  Maybe the author often has violent sex, who knows, and therefore does not know the difference between sex without permission of the other, rape of a child (that’s rape too) or just plain rape.
    I don’t usually believe in violent punishments or capital punishment but since child rape is on the increase, my feelings have changed.  Castration is one of the best deterrents.

  22. 112
    Marie

    I was raped a year ago by an ex, but I had blocked out most of the attack till a month ago I remembered everything that he did to me. I have PTSD and my life isn’t great at the moment. I read this article and I don’t agree with anything. Rape is one of the worst thing a woman or anyone can go through. I hate someone telling me to “get over it”, not as easy as you think. If your someone that hasn’t gone through what some of us women go through, you have no idea what we feel or go through. I just remembered everything and it’s still fresh to me. I still carry the guilt and the shame of it. I go over every day that I should of done something different at that moment to prevent it from happening. I hurt people in my life with it and I blame myself for that. I have nightmares and can’t sleep at night. I don’t like sex and I feel dirty when it comes to mind or even with touch. Someone told me, I’m delaying my healing because I just want to continue with the people feeling sorry for me and I’m getting attention. Really, I kept my attack of what I remembered from my own boyfriend and other people in my life for months before saying anything. Rape is rape, its wrong and disgusting.

  23. 113
    Lolla

    Didn’t even finnish reading this, not all rape cases are the same and since I live in South-Africa (yes the rape capital), every 17 seconds a women is raped, more than 10 million of the population is infected with HIV/AIDS, the probability for a women to be raped is at least once in her life, the probability of being raped by an HIV/AIDS infected male is 1/4, oh and burglaries here consists of average 4 to 5 males, in which when women is victimised they are gang raped by all males, so to make my point, if you are to be raped in a place like this, it WILL haunt you for the rest of your life, destroy you and chances are that you will end up with HIV/AIDS are HUGE, I have two female friends, where raped and dumped in a nature reserve, both ended up with HIV/AIDS, can’t understand how this article can justify rape as “oh it’s not that bad!”. Seriously?

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